With so much hype around the Bulls-Lakers matchup on Monday, I completely forgot to push out a fresh weekly preview! Sorry about that, but at least the hype was warranted!
Meet the Opponents:
• 11/17 @ Trail Blazers (7-8): Remember what Dame Time did to you last year?
• 11/19 @ Nuggets (9-5): Facing The Joker without your starting center? Good luck.
• 11/21 vs. Knicks (8-6): WE ARE THE BULL BEATERS!
Bulls Projected Lineup
1. Lonzo Ball
2. Zach LaVine
3. DeMar DeRozan
4. Alex Caruso
5. Tony Bradley
Opponent Projected Lineup
1. Damian Lillard
2. CJ McCollum
3. Normal Powell
4. Robert Covington
5. Jusuf Nurkic
1. Monte Morris
2. Austin Rivers
3. Will Barton
4. Aaron Gordon
5. Nikola Jokic
1. Kemba Walker
2. Evan Fournier
3. RJ Barrett
4. Julius Randle
5. Mitchell Robinson
Unavailable/Injured (at the start of the week):
Bulls: Patrick Williams OUT (wrist), Nikola Vucevic OUT (NBA Protocols)
Trail Blazers: Greg Brown DAY-TO-DAY (ankle)
Nuggets: Will Barton DAY-TO-DAY (back), Bones Hyland DAY-TO-DAY (ankle), Zeke Nnaji DAY-TO-DAY (ankle), Vlatko Cancar OUT (hip), Michael Porter Jr. OUT (back), Jamal Murray OUT (knee)
Knicks: Nerlens Noel OUT (knee)
Injury updates via ESPN.
• Bulls: 52.8 EFG% (10th), 13.5 TOV% (8th), 22.9 OREB% (28th), .230 FTA RATE (10th)
• Blazers: 53.6 EFG% (4th), 14.0 TOV% (14th), 26.2 OREB% (19th), .206 FTA RATE (23rd)
• Nuggets: 52.9 EFG% (9th), 14.7 TOV% (17th), 26.8 OREB% (14th), .183 FTA RATE (30th)
• Knicks: 52.3 EFG% (15th), 13.7 TOV% (12th), 27.7 OREB% (10th), .232 FTA RATE (9th)
What to Watch For …
Bulls: After making his debut on Monday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, Coby White is likely set for increased action over the next three games. The third-year guard played only 11 minutes in his season debut, failing to score and recording just one rebound. While it may have been an underwhelming return to the floor, it was an expected one. White is not only coming off the first significant injury of his career, but he has missed vital chemistry-building with this new-look roster. Getting acclimated to his new role and his new teammates will take time, and we all need to give him that time. Now, with that said, the hope is still that we see gradual progress as the week stretches on. The Bulls might be filled with high-energy, defensive-savvy reserves, but it aggressively lacks scoring. In fact, Chicago currently averages the fewest bench points per game, so adding a comfortable White back into the mix should only help balance out this roster (which means even less taxing early-season minutes for LaVine and DeRozan).
Trail Blazers: If the Trail Blazers hopped to satisfy Damian Lillard with a blistering hot start to the 2021-22 campaign … they have failed (to be fair, though, Lillard isn’t off to a hot start either). Portland is currently 9th in the Western Conference with an underwhelming 7-8 start. While their offense has been one of the more efficient units in the league (4th-highest effective field goal percentage), their defense has been the 7th-worst unit in the league. Opponents have averaged just under 110 points on this Blazers unit, which is in large part thanks to a ridiculous 38.4 percent from behind the arc. A Bulls team that is coming off a 121 point affair against the Los Angeles Lakers should be able to take full advantage of this Blazers’ lackluster defense. But, at the same time, this is another game where the Bulls’ lack of size will be a topic of conversation. As good as they have been playing small this season, Jusuf Nurkic, Robert Covington, and Larry Nance possess the mix of size and physicality that could theoretically give this Bulls team trouble on both ends.
Nuggets: Speaking of strong frontcourt play, the Denver Nuggets have the MVP and the Bulls don’t. Jokic has practically picked up right where he left off last season, dragging the banged-up Nuggets to a 4th-place spot in the Western Conference. The big man is currently averaging 26.1 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game on an absurd 59.3 percent shooting from the field and 38.8 percent shooting from downtown. The Nuggets play at their own pace and kill opponents with smart decision-making and efficient scoring. Jokic, as one of the game’s most unique talents, is the catalyst for all of that, and he is one of the few players in this league who can single-handedly will his team to a victory.
Knicks: REVENGE. After starting off as hot as the Bulls, the Knicks have started to cool off. Julius Randle and Co. are just 2-3 in their last five games. Over that stretch, their net rating sits just 23rd overall, with their effective field goal percentage ranking 6th-worst in the league. Now, does this mean the Bulls can approach their second meeting any lighter than they did the first? Absolutely not. New York is still a playoff-caliber squad with the kind of bruising frontcourt depth that has already handed the Bulls a tough loss this season. For example, in their first meeting, the Bulls were outrebounded 49-37, with the Knicks having an 11-5 advantage on the offensive glass. A win this time around will have to come with a significant improvement in the rebounding department.
Question of the week …
Last Week’s Question: Are we still talking about Nikola Vucevic’s bricks?
The good news is that we are not talking about Nikola Vucevic bricks. The bad news is that is because Nikola Vucevic isn’t even playing. I don’t need to tell you, but the Bulls’ All-Star Center entered NBA Protocol last week and missed the past three games. While he was able to break out of his shooting slump with an 18-point showing against the Dallas Mavericks, whether or not that is something that is here to stay will have to be something we wait to see.
This Week’s Question: Is Coby White starting to look comfortable?